Meet Sorrel O’Connell-Milne

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Job: 

Assistant Research Fellow.

Job description: 

I help with all and any aspects as needed by my research team such as going into the field to run experiments, diving to collect samples, and doing laboratory analysis once they have been collected. I also have my own research question assessing trace elements concentrations in the tissue and shell of various shellfish species from estuaries around New Zealand. 

Work background: 

In the past I have worked as a research assistant for a few different professors at the University of Otago, these opportunities mainly came about due to volunteering with various research groups both in New Zealand and Hawaii.

Favourite part of job: 

Getting to work outside in beautiful places around New Zealand and working with interesting people who have positive energy because they are doing a job they care about. 

Least favourite part of job: 

When weather bombs shatter our sampling dreams.

What I am working on now: 

Ecosystem connectivity project within the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge.

A quick story about a job well done: 

We recently ran a sampling trip in three estuaries around the top of the South Island. Despite never having worked in these estuaries before and only officially able to drive the boat the week prior to our trip, we were so elated to have everything run to plan! Fourteen days of perfect weather, more data than we had hoped for and even some down time to explore each of these beautiful estuaries between sample periods.

A (humorous) story about a job that went badly and what you learned: 

My MSc project assessed the potential impact of a commercial fishery on the parasite load within their target shellfish – the humble clam (Austrovenus stutchburyi). All was going well and my pilot study was looking great until suddenly the parasite appeared to be gone. I was trying to collect parasites in the life stage before they infect the clam however by the time I was ready to do my experiment it was getting on towards winter. It turned out my parasite preferred to wait until warm waters in summer to emerge from its host (a snail) and infect the clam. Lesson learnt: even parasites like summer best. 

Qualifications: 

Masters in Marine Science.

Interests outside work: 

Surfing and exploring new areas above and below water around New Zealand.


Sorrel sampling in the Blueskin Bay estuary north of Dunedin. Image: Sustainable Seas Challenge.